October 23, 2012

Richt: 'It's not an issue'

Although Saturday's huge game with Florida remained foremost on the minds of head coach Mark Richt and his players, Monday night's rant by senior safety Shawn Williams was the hot topic of conversation during Tuesday's weekly press gathering at the Butts-Mehre Building.

Following practice on Monday, Williams lit into teammates during a session with beat writers, one which he called the Bulldog defense soft, questioned the focus and basically called out linebackers Christian Robinson and Mike Gilliard.

"I think it was more public than you'd like, but I don't think he meant any harm by it, I really don't," Richt said. "His teammates know that. It's not an issue. It's really not an issue."

Richt said that Williams came to him in his office Tuesday morning to discuss what was said.

"I think he read the comments and didn't like the way, not necessarily the way it was reported, but when he read it himself," Richt said. "He said that's really not the tone of what he was trying to communicate in his heart. But he's an emotional guy, he wants us to have success and he wants to try to motivate, not also himself, but his teammates to play better. That's not necessarily a bad thing. You'd rather not have it as public as it was, but I really don't think it was a big issue."

Linebacker Amarlo Herrera said he didn't have a problem with what Williams had to say.

"It needed to be said sometimes soon, somebody needed to say something," Herrera shrugged. "He took it upon himself and said it."

Herrera found himself in the middle of Monday's story when Williams stated unequivocally that the sophomore, along with Alec Ogletree, should not come out of the game.

Tuesday, Robinson had his chance to respond.

"I thought of a verse that says, 'Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger,'" Robinson said. "I don't make the depth charts. I go in on third down; that's pretty obvious. Everyone sees that. I think the coaches have been doing this long enough that the guys they put out on the field are the guys they think can get it done.

"As a teammate, I've got to believe that every guy can make plays and I need to be supportive of what they do. I really think that whoever the guy is on the field, that's the guy they think can get it done. That's where I'm at. That's my stance. We've got to go to practice today and we've got to practice together. I'm pretty sure one person has never beaten an opponent by himself and if we're going to beat Florida, this will be the game that everyone remembers for his senior season. It's going to take 11 guys to get that done."

Senior defensive lineman John Jenkins seemed oblivious to the controversy.

Jenkins denied even hearing about Williams' comments when asked by reporters, adding he'd try to go back and read them later.

"Certain things need to be said and everybody is entitled to his opinion," Jenkins said. "I just look at it this way. He's on the same team I'm on and he wants the best for everybody. Sometimes you have to say certain things to get things going. At the end of the day, we wear the same colors and we're in the same locker room."

Defensive end Garrison Smith was in his apartment when his roommate called him over to check out an article about Williams' statement.

"I was like 'Oh, OK.' It was definitely shots fired, you know," Smith said. "He said it and you've got to take it. You've got to be a man and react to it, defend on whether you're a player or not."

Smith believes the team will respond.

"In my opinion the team is going to stand up on all 10 toes and be a man. Nobody's going to lie down after getting called soft," Smith said. "I know I'm not personally and I know nobody else is. Everybody is going to do his best."

Robinson agreed.

"It's definitely not the best thing to hear after you got a win. We didn't have a great game and we didn't play the way we need to," he said. "We're just going to have to stick together. It wasn't what I wanted to hear, but we all make mistakes. No football player wants to hear they're soft."

However, Herrera said the gist of Williams' comments were correct.

"We're not playing to the level that we're supposed to; we're playing soft," Herrera said. "I look at the film and we have been playing soft around here. We're not the D that we were last year. We're the same people but we're not playing the same. I can't explain it."

Richt was asked point-blank if Williams was correct.

"That's how he felt about it, he has a right to say that," Richt retorted, before finishing one final thought. "Do we want to get better at stopping the run? Yeah, you better believe it."